Communities of Practice Tools that Your Team Will Love
Communities of Practice is impossible to maintain without its tools. Learn the different Communities of Practice tools here.
As a leader, if you want to exponentially grow the CoPs in your company, you have to make it sure that you have systems and structures in place that would naturally assimilate to the operation of CoPs
Building and maintaining a community of practice and keeping the members actively engaged in conversations and projects is not an easy task, even for the most highly trained thought leaders.
Wenger et al. (2002) enumerated seven processes that can sustain and cultivate a CoP. These are as follows:
- Designing for evolution
- Facilitating dialogues between members and outside the CoP
- Inviting various levels of member participation
- Developing community spaces
- Concentrating on value
- Combining excitement and familiarity
- Creating a unique rhythm for the CoP
It is difficult to keep track of each process plus the knowledge transfers between members.
Thankfully, there are various tools that leaders and members can use for communication, collaboration, knowledge repository and distribution, and task management to help monitor the progress of the community in attaining the goals and maintaining momentum.
Communities of Practice Tools for Communication
Communication is at the core of a community of practice. Wenger points out that it’s best for members to communicate regularly.
CoP Members must constantly engage with each other to share information, firsthand experiences, opinions and practices.
Finding an effective communication and collaboration tool that fits the needs of the community and connects members, especially those who work remotely is essential if you want to succeed in maintaining a healthy CoP.
Here are some of your options:
It is a collaboration tool used by SMEs and large enterprises. It is best distinguished by its workspace and channels.
A workspace can be created by the assigned CoP leader and send email invites to the rest of the community members. As for the channel, you can assign a specific topic and add in contributors.
For example, a CoP of the HR department wants to specifically discuss onboarding procedure. To organise conversations on onboarding, the account administrators can create a channel labelled #onboarding.
Price: Roughly £6 to £10– the pricing depends on the features and add-ons you need. For small communities, you can try the free account.
Connecting with members of an organisation is never better with Yammer. It’s an app created by Microsoft that looks and feel like a typical social media network.
However, it is specifically designed for business organisations with its large file upload feature, video conferencing option, company directory, microblog, profile pages and easy to use interface.
Pricing: The basic package starts at around £2.50 per user account.
When it comes to conducting video calls, Google Hangouts is among the top choice of organisations. It can be accessed both through the PC and mobile devices.
Some of the key features of this app are HD video call capability, group conferencing option, auto screen focus, and personalised control options for admins.
You also have the option to integrate the app with various Google Apps such as the Hangouts on Air, an app that allows you to live broadcast videos.
Price: You can access the app for free. Simply create an account on Google and you can organise team conferences already.
Another tool worthy of a mention is Facebook’s Workplace. It’s relatively new to the market but one with promising future because of its advantageous familiarity to users.
Aside from communication tools mentioned above, your organisation must consider using email lists to send updates and messages to every member. You can use tools such as Apple Mail, Mailchimp, and Outlook.
Project Management Tools for Organising Knowledge Resource and Community Tasks
While joining a CoP is voluntary, leaders may designate specific roles to some members to ensure that the community reaches its goal.
iCohere points out that members with designated roles are more likely to engage and participate than those who aren’t assigned any responsibility.
Below are among the most popular project management tools used in various industries today.
It’s a project management app that allows leaders to assign specific tasks to the members.
For example, the leader of the community may assign a few members to become the discussion facilitator, secretary, photo editors, social secretary, or link mavens.
By designating tasks, it’s easier for leaders to focus on building the community and improving its strategies. Leaders can monitor the progress of members through the app’s highly interactive interface.
Price: You can use it for free or avail their premium (around £8 per member) or enterprise package if you wish to access more advanced customisation features.
Trello is a Kanban project management tool that communities of practices can potentially use.
Leaders can assign tasks, set deadlines, provide details of the tasks, attach supporting documents and more using a card. Members can drag and drop each card into the appropriate lists.
Price: Creating a basic account is free, but if you want to access more features, you can either pay £35 a year or £4 per month.
Cloud Storage Apps for Communities of Practices
A cloud storage app is essential to any organisation. It provides quick, secured and safe access to databases, files and other important documents that the member may need.
Some of the best cloud storage apps you can use are OneDrive, Google Drive, Box, Dropbox and Amazon Drive.
Most of these cloud storage companies provide at limited storage space for free. If you want to avail more storage for the CoP files and documents, you can purchase storage space add-on packages.
How A Community Blog and Wiki Can Help a Community of Practice
Blogs and wikis are considered as effective vessels of learning.
Blogs mostly focused on personal or collective reflections and opinions, while wikis are an open source and searchable knowledge base about various niches and topics.
Despite their differences, both types of web-based collaboration software serve the purpose of collecting and collating information that may offer value to a community.
CIO also explain that aside from providing information, as examples of a social software, blogs and wikis allow the audience to interact and contribute to the knowledge base.
Furthermore, Boulos et al. (2006) explain that if properly constructed and deployed, blogs and wikis can significantly improve knowledge absorption and boost engagement and collaboration among members of a community of practice.
There are thousands of available tools and techniques that CoPs can use to sustain engagement, improve knowledge transfer and open communication lines among members.
Pick one that will best suit the needs of the community. Among the community of practice tools mentioned above, what are your favourite(s)? How do you use them for your community’s advantage? What apps do you use for your CoP?
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